Even if you are already living a relatively healthy lifestyle there are always little things you can do to improve your health, how you feel, your mood and energy levels. Write these down!
If you are reading this I know you care about health. You may already be on a “healthy” diet. Or maybe you are a vegan. Or just simply avoiding junk food. You are probably doing a conscious effort to move more, sleep well and prevent illness. Which is great! But you might still be feeling tired, stressed and overall not your best. Try these quick hacks to improve your health right away!
Needless is to say that if you are a smoker or have any other addictions, you can probably benefit from working on that to start with. But in general, even for people who live a relatively healthy lifestyle, there are a few simple things you can do to improve the way you feel, your mood and your health. Do as many of the below as you can and you’ll notice the difference in no time.
1. Swap processed foods for real food
Heavily processed foods have a number of unpronounceable ingredients and chemicals. You probably have heard nutritionists saying that we should shop in the fresh produce section of the supermarket. But many people still struggle to make that happen. However, if you make the right swaps it really isn’t that hard. For example, you can replace pasta with potatoes, noodles with courgette noodles, instant sauce mixes for spices, and ready meals for easy home-made food like this venison stew, this carrot and fennel soup or my Spanish style baked eggs.
2. Sleep more
At least 8 hours a day. More if you can. Try to sleep when is dark outside and go to bed at the same time every day (if your job allows it). Remove or switch off all lights from your room, including your alarm clock or the standby light of your computer screen. Get yourself some blackout curtains, if you don’t already own ones. This is particularly important if you work shifts and sleep at different times. And, if you currently have trouble falling sleep establish a bed time routine. Dim the lights an hour before bed time and stay away from your phone and laptop. Read a book instead or have a bath. Prioritise your sleep and you will feel better in no time.
3. Include probiotics in your diet
Probiotics? You might be wondering… Does that mean I need to buy supplements and expensive pills? No, not necessarily, I personally don’t although there’s a time and a place for supplements. I prefer to make sure I eat a variety of fermented and cultured foods like raw apple cider vinegar; unpasteurised pickles, sauerkraut and their Asian friend kimchi; yoghurt and kefir; and drinks like kombucha. Add a few servings of these throughout the week and your gut will thank you.
4. Quit sugar
And by sugar I mean the refined (white) type and all the synthetic sugars like dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, etc. Essentially, if the sugar has been added to the product, you can do without it. There a few exceptions like honey and maple syrup that have extra nutrients. And of course, a bit of raw cane or coconut sugar every now and then it’s fine. But give it a go and spend a month without eating added sugar and you’ll notice the difference!
5. Find time for yourself in the morning
Exercise, meditate, enjoy a cup of coffee… do whatever you prefer but find some “me time” to start the day the right way. You will decrease stress levels, feel more ready to face the day ahead, and overall feel better and at peace with yourself. I wrote more about this in this post.
6. Eat more fat
Don’t be afraid of eating fat. Again, this doesn’t mean that you need to eat bacon, mackerel & a pint of walnuts in every meal. No judgement here if you do that, just saying that you don’t need to, but you can enjoy some of those foods without feeling bad. Our bodies need fat to keep our hormones happy and regulate all our vital processes. And also, please, don’t be afraid to bring butter back to your life, eat half an avocado, add coconut milk to your coffee, have a couple of eggs for breakfast and enjoy a good drizzle of olive oil in your salads. Vegetables have fat soluble nutrients so you will get a bigger benefit by eating them with a drizzle of olive oil!
7. Start strength training
Let’s start by saying that any sort of exercise or movement is good. “Why are you recommending strength training then?” You are probably thinking. Well, I just simply think it’s the best. It can be adapted to anyone’s level, you don’t need to be fit to start, and has long-term health benefits like strengthening your muscles and bones to keep you being a badass when you are old. It’s also especially good for females, as it helps prevent osteoporosis. You can start with one day a week and progress from there. And you don’t need to pay expensive gym fees or buy tons of equipment. Push ups, planks and “water bottle dumbbells” are just as effective!
8. Change your cooking oils
Use coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, ghee, butter or rendered fats like tallow and lard. Ditch the rapeseed, canola, soybean and seed oils. They aren’t shelf stable and oxidise very quickly, especially when cooking at a high temperature with them. Which means that you would be eating damaged oils and likely causing inflammation in your body. Swap these for any of the above mentioned and your body will thank you.
9. Say “No” more often
This one took me a while to be comfortable with. In modern life we tend to do too much. We are always running around from work to home, from the bar to the cinema, across the country for a festival or for a night out with your old uni friends. We catch flights, drive for miles, spend hours underground to do some of those things. But we also go to the gym, meet with ex colleagues, and feel like we need to find a hobby to do in our non-existing free time. Whilst quality social time is needed (as you’ll hear more about this in number 10) we need to learn to say no to what we don’t want to or can’t do. And “can’t” doesn’t have to mean that you are sick or out of country! “Can’t” can mean that you need to rest, have some quiet time, you don’t really feel like doing that, or you simply prefer to do something else instead. Don’t be afraid to say no, and you will gain in health.
10. Spend more quality time with your loved ones
Friends, family, pets,… anyone that makes you feel loved and you care about. Even if this means you will have to make a compromise to any of the above! Just focus on quality, not quantity. For example, a family meal sharing stories and childhood memories, when you go to be a little bit later and eat not that great food… can be better for you than if you had stayed home by yourself over your perfect meal and scheduled bed time. This is not a green card to go out 4 nights a week and get smashed. It’s all about really enjoying the social and emotional connection spending meaningful time with the people you care about.